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Cursed Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

Given the production history of this film, Cursed may very well be the most appropriately named movie of 2005. Technically, this thing was ready for release nearly two years ago, but studio dissatisfaction sent director Wes Craven back to the drawing board. Kevin Williamson rewrote his screenplay, and Craven had to reshoot almost half the movie. Certain actors had their roles significantly changed as a result of this massive retooling, and some, like Mandy Moore, had their scenes cut from the picture entirely. When something takes this much time and editing to reach screens, it typically turns out to be awful (see League of Extraordinary Gentleman), but Cursed is different. Wes Craven must've done something right the second time around, because this delayed little horror movie ain't that bad. In fact, after so many recent scary movie duds, I can honestly say that I'm glad Cursed came my way.

Mind you, I'm not that glad. While Cursed is a decided improvement over recent atrocities like White Noise and Boogeyman, it's still not exemplary. Actually, when you really examine it, Cursed isn't even that scary-none of the pop-out "boo" moments work, and there's no real atmosphere to speak of. However, what Cursed lacks in scares it makes up for in fun, which in theory seems like an unfair trade-off for a horror movie, but in reality, it works very well. Cursed succeeds much in the same way that Craven's own Scream did, with a careful balance of haunting frights and implied silliness. Underlying the dark, hair-raising tone of both Scream and Cursed, is a streak of self-deprecating humor, which, in the modern horror scene, is comforting. It's nice to know that a movie like Cursed can aim for scares, and still not take itself too seriously.

For example, consider a scene in Cursed, where a character reveals herself to be a werewolf. As she howls and snarls and viciously beats our heroes, Ellie (Christina Ricci) and her brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg), the were-girl takes the time, of course, to explain how she got this way. Turns out, her boyfriend was a wolf-person too, which prompts the best line in the movie: "I guess there's no such thing as safe sex with a werewolf."

Yes, the advertisers have hid it well, but it's true: Cursed is about werewolves. The "curse" in question is the werewolf's bite, which as we've learned before, turns the bitten into half-canine, half-human beasts which only emerge under a full moon's light. Cursed opens with a horrible car accident and a surprise werewolf attack, which leaves one girl (Shannon Elizabeth) dead, and our heroes, Ellie and Jimmy, with nasty wolf bites. The curse is slow-acting, however, so they don't realize it at first-although Jimmy suspects something after randomly researching werewolves online. Eventually, Jimmy starts to embrace his turning-after all, with were-blood now in his system, he's like a super hero, with superhuman strength, sharpened senses and, for some reason, a heightened sex appeal. Ellie, on the other hand, is in denial at first, but soon, raw meat cravings and rash, unruly behavior start to take over. It damages her work at the Craig Kilborn show (a job which, somehow, I found funny. I don't know why.), and her relationship with her boyfriend (Joshua Jackson).

Eventually Ellie believes her brother, and Jimmy finally understands that there's a reason why the movie wasn't called Gifted, and so they start looking for ways to defeat the curse. Again, consult fans of horror movie lore and you'll find there's only one way to do this-to kill the werewolf who bit you. Well, that's great, but there's a problem-Ellie and Jimmy don't know who their werewolf was. It could be anybody...

Oh, there's so many stupid things in Cursed, but in the end, I didn't mind them. There's a ridiculous and inappropriate side plot involving a character coming to grips with his homosexuality, and one supremely unscary sequence where music star, Mya, is chased by a werewolf in a parking garage. Again, there's nothing exciting about Cursed, and you can't call it a true "horror movie" with confidence. Yet, there are a lot of clever scenes, loaded with classic horror references and that unmistakable vein of humor. I love the part where Jimmy, using his wolfish strength, wrestles a school bully, or the film's finale in a Hollywood-themed restaurant, where things get almost too silly. It's a lot of fun to watch Cursed, if only because it's so irreverent and goofy when it really shouldn't be. You can't really whisper any snide commentary to the person beside you because the movie does that for you.

And, you know what? As silly as werewolves are, I really admire that Wes Craven decided to make a movie about them. Not including that unmentionable scar on cinema, Van Helsing, movies have shied away from the Wolfman and his like, so it feels kind of fresh and pleasantly unusual to see him starring in Cursed. Movies like this prove that there's some good left in the horror genre, and that there's at least one smart man willing to go behind the camera and make something new.

That said, I feel guilty giving Cursed an unfavorable review. Ultimately, it just isn't interesting enough for me to recommend it, but that doesn't mean I don't admire what it tries to do. If a better movie was made in the same spirit as Cursed, it would most certainly be scary cinema's next big thing.

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